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Fake fire staged in college dorm; 3 arrested

Three teens were arrested after bags of popcorn were overcooked in a college dorm microwave and doors were shut so that residents thought they were trapped in a burning building.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Officials at Central Connecticut State University don't see the humor in this prank: burning bags of popcorn in a microwave in a crowded dorm in the middle of the night and tying some doors shut so residents think they're trapped in a burning building.

Campus police say they arrested three teenagers who purposely burned the popcorn early Monday, setting off a fire alarm in the dorm shortly after 3 a.m.

No one was hurt in the incident in Vance Hall at the New Britain campus. University officials offered counseling to anyone who needed it.

University spokesman Mark McLaughlin said two bags of popcorn were in a microwave on the third floor, and about six room doors were tied shut with fishing line on the fourth and fifth floors. But students were able to squeeze out because the line wasn't tight, and the smoke apparently wasn't much of a problem, he said.

"We take this very seriously. It could easily have been something that went terribly wrong," McLaughlin said.

Dorm residents 'annoyed'
Students in the dorm "were calm and handled the incident well — annoyed, as you can imagine, but calm," McLaughlin said.

The six-floor dorm is the second-largest on campus, with room for 400 students.

Police arrested Matthew Dortch, 18, of Wayne, N.J.; Patrick Robinson, 18, of Goshen, N.Y.; and Christopher Scifo, 19, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

All three were arraigned in New Britain Superior Court and posted bail Monday after being charged with reckless endangerment, reckless burning and other crimes. They're due to return to court June 5.

Two of the three are athletes at the school, and the third is a former student-athlete.

Students suspended
Dortch is a running back/wide receiver on the football team, and Robinson is a pitcher on the baseball team. McLaughlin said Dortch and Robinson have been suspended from school indefinitely while university officials investigate and determine if discipline is warranted.

Scifo was a kicker on the football team last season, but has transferred to a college in Florida, officials said.

In an e-mail Tuesday, Dortch referred questions to his lawyer, Patrick Tomasiewicz, who said his client accepts responsibility and is remorseful, and wants to reach a plea agreement.

It wasn't clear Tuesday if Robinson and Scifo had attorneys. They didn't respond to e-mails. Scifo was on his way back to Florida, his brother said Tuesday when he answered the phone at the family's home.